One of the best things about living in the Boston area is its proximity to so many wonderful cities and towns that are only a few hours driving distance. Whether you are a skier, hiker, swimmer, beer enthusiast, or all of the above, you can do a min-road trip and find yourself in the mountains, on the beach or touring breweries in no time. I am embarrassed to say that I have not really taken advantage of all that New England has to offer in the 8 years I have lived here in Boston, but I attribute it to the fact that I never had a car. Ever since my husband and I bought our Subaru Crosstrek (quick plug: we love our car!), we have made an effort to do more local trips (day and overnight).
Last month Jon and I treated my younger sisters, Sophany and Sophana, to a much needed weekend getaway in Portland, which is about a 2-hour drive from our house in Swampscott. Jon and I have been to Portland for day trips in the past, mostly to visit one of our favorite beer gardens, Novare Res Bier Cafe, but we wanted the weekend to explore more of the downtown area and local breweries. We stayed at the Hyatt Place on Fore Street where many bars and restaurants are located. Friday night we dined at a tapas restaurant called Sur Lie, and it did not disappoint! We had the lamb liver mousse and smokehouse soppressata from the Fromage menu, and shared a bunch of other small plates pictured below (sweet pea hummus, roasted mixed beets salad, fried chicken, oyster mushrooms, fried oysters, lamb shoulder and broiled Spanish octopus).
Everything was delicious and perfectly seasoned! For dessert we had freshly baked (or fried?) donuts filled with blueberries, and they were divine. Look at these babies – aren’t they mouth watering? 😛
Our dinner conversation was mostly focused on our family dynamics as this was our first time away from our father since his moving in with us (fortunately my oldest brother took our dad for the weekend so we could have the time off together. That was greatly appreciated, except that it felt like he was doing us a favor, despite the fact that dad is also his dad…but that’s another story). In any case, it was heartwarming to have such a nice dinner with my husband and sisters and to be able to carry on such a serious conversation while still being able to joke with one another. It was the perfect way to start our trip together.
Our walk back to the hotel was interesting as we witnessed a girl who was obscenely drunk and her boyfriend wasn’t trying hard enough to help her (she was on the sidewalk with her pants down and mooning everyone who walked by her!). I didn’t realize Portland could get so wild! The downtown scene was bumping Friday night. There are a number of bars right across the street from our hotel so we decided to stop by a bar that was set up like Coyote Ugly with poles running up to the ceiling from the bar stand. Drinks were ridiculously cheap (4 drinks cost us $20!).
Saturday morning we started off by enjoying the hotel’s amenities – free breakfast, gym and pool (only my sisters used the pool). We then made our way to Duck Fat for lunch but it was an hour wait so we ended up at The Honey Paw instead, which turned out to be great. The Honey Paw is Asian Fusion, which is a concept I am always wary of, but the food was fantastic. We had short ribs, lobster wontons, and banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe) to start, and each of us a tried a noodle dish, except for Sophana who had the pork belly rice, which was phenomenal.
Afterward we took an Uber to Allagash Brewery for our tour. This was my sisters’ first time touring a brewery and they loved it. I was impressed to learn of how Allagash got its start and how it’s a very well maintained privately held business. I am a fan of Allagash beer and was happy to try some of the ones I have not tried before, including the Helena, which has a very tart aftertaste. We left with 10 bottles of beer, including the Helena and the Interlude, which is beer aged in red wine barrels (a favorite of ours that is hard to find in liquor stores in the Boston area).
We had a few hours to rest before our dinner at Grace. I was excited to bring Jon to Grace because Grace is actually a converted church! Definitely a new dining experience for all of us. The restaurant installed a stainless steel open kitchen right where the altar used to be and a bar area in the middle of the church.
The cocktail menu was clever as you can see in the picture below, with cocktail names such as Original Sin, Redemption, etc.
The food was solid (though not as good as Sur Lie from the previous night). The highlight of our meal was the desserts – we had the yuzu semifreddo which was dressed with a miso caramel and a “s’mores bar” accompanied by goat cheese ice cream. The ice cream was definitely interesting! I was tired and had work to do so I stayed in after dinner while Jon and my sisters went out to Pearl Club across the street for drinks. My sisters told me that they felt old at Pearl, which is scary considering that they are 22 and 25.
We wrapped up our trip with lunch at Duck Fat which is overindulgent as always. My favorite items on the menu are the duck fat poutine (this time around we topped it with roasted duck) and the duck fat milk shake.
We stopped by Two Fat Cats Bakery for some pies to bring home with us. On our drive back, we stopped by the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth where we were able to get some beautiful scenic photos (despite the overcast). Overall, Portland was the perfect weekend getaway, and although we all came back a few pounds heavier, we look forward to returning in the summer!
Friday: Dinner at Sur Lie
Saturday: Lunch at Honey Paw; Allagash Brewery Tour; Dinner at Grace Restaurant
Sunday: Lunch at Duck Fat; Pit stop at Portland Head Light
Total spend for 4 people: ~$400/person, including hotel and all meals (excluding mileage & gas)